Cyprus Mail

Vigilance urged for stolen cancer drug

By Staff Reporter

The Pharmaceutical Services said on Tuesday it was unlikely that Roche’s breast cancer drug Herceptin, thought to have been stolen from hospitals in Italy, tampered with and reintroduced into the supply chain was on the Cyprus market.

However the deputy head of the services, Ioannis Kkolos, told the Cyprus News Agency that health sector workers and the public should be vigilant and report anything suspicious.

“Although it is unlikely, the possibility is conceivable,” he said.

The European Medicines Agency warned last week that vials of Herceptin were  thought to have been stolen from hospitals in Italy.

So far there have been no reports that any harm has come to patients who may have been given the stolen drug, which was sold under false credentials.

Healthcare professionals have been alerted to the falsified vials, which are labelled as Italian Herceptin 150 mg, the agency said.

In a separate statement Roche said that counterfeit Herceptin had been discovered in Britain, Finland and Germany.

A chemical analysis of one of the bogus vials found that the product did not contain the injectable cancer medicine’s active ingredient, the company said. In other cases, there was evidence of tampering or dilution although the vials did contain Herceptin, it said.

“Such tampering could compromise the sterility or efficacy of the product putting the health and wellbeing of patients at risk,” Roche said.

The Basel-based firm said it was recalling all vials suspected of being falsified as a precautionary measure.

Roche’s drugs have been targeted by counterfeiters in the past. In 2012 bogus copies of its cancer drug Avastinentered the supply chain in the United States and Europe.

Herceptin is Roche’s third-biggest seller.

Kkolos said inspections conducted in Cyprus had so far not detected anything untoward in the supply chain “but never say never”, he said.

The medicine itself is not given on prescription but is only administered by hospitals and clinics. It cannot be self-administered.

Signs to look for include the expiration date on the box differing from that on the vial itself. Vials containing any liquid is also a giveaway as Herceptin is a whitish yellow powder.

The affected lot numbers are; I4311V07 , H4329B01, H4284B04, H4319B02, H4324B03, H4196B01, H4271B01, H4301B09 and H4303B01.

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